Councillors demand more protection for cyclists after city's Vision Zero plan fails to curb deaths

Two city councillors will demand immediate safety improvements to the Bloor Street corridor after a woman who was cycling near a protected bike lane in the Annex died after being hit by a flatbed truck.

So far this year, 21 cyclists and pedestrians have been killed on Toronto’s streets

A cyclist rides on the designated Bloor Street bike lanes in Toronto. Two city councillors are calling for immediate safety improvements to the busy corridor after a woman was killed at St. George and Bloor streets on Tuesday. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Two city councillors will demand immediate safety improvements to the Bloor Street corridor after a woman who was cycling near a protected bike lane in the Annex died after being hit by a flatbed truck. 

"While the Bloor bike lane pilot made the street safer, more must be done along the whole corridor," tweeted Coun. Joe Cressy on Wednesday, adding that he would be bringing a motion to council to make improvements with the support of Coun. Mike Layton.

"Planned improvements to separation, accessibility and intersections on Bloor needs to happen faster. I hope council supports these efforts without hesitation or delay," Layton tweeted in response three minutes later.

The move comes as Jennifer Keesmaat, the city's former chief planner, is calling for a "state of emergency" over the number of traffic-related deaths in the city.

"It's too much to take. It's unbearable," she tweeted.

"First step is to lower speed limits and enforce them. The game playing — pretending we don't know what to do — must stop," she wrote.

Vision Zero plan failing to curb deaths as frustration mounts

Wednesday marks two years since the city announced its Vision Zero plan to eliminate road deaths. So far, the program has failed to make a significant difference. Toronto police statistics show 40 pedestrians and cyclists were killed last year, while 44 died the year before that. 

So far this year, 21 cyclists and pedestrians have been killed on Toronto's streets, and city officials are hearing about it.

After Mayor John Tory offered his thoughts to the family of the woman killed and said he was determined to make the city's streets safer, he faced a backlash online.

"I'm frustrated and angry that politicians extend their thoughts and prayers, but fail to implement adequate protections for cyclists and pedestrians. I'm done with the excuses," wrote Steve Masse.

"More aggressive police presence at intersections, more islands flashing lights," wrote Sharin Kaur Saxena.

"No more #visionzero theatre," wrote Glendon Mellow.

That frustration appears to be boiling over amid what is turning into another deadly week on Toronto's streets:

  • On Monday afternoon, a 50-year-old woman walking near Briar Hill Avenue and Dufferin Street was struck and killed by a driver behind the wheel of a pickup truck. Police say the driver fled the scene, leaving the woman lying in the roadway. She later died in hospital.
  • On Tuesday around noon, a 58-year-old woman died after she was hit by a flatbed truck while cycling near the University of Toronto.
  • On Tuesday afternoon, police announced a 36-year-old cyclist hit by a car on May 15 in the city's west end had died on June 7.
  • The most recent fatality — not included in Toronto's stats but still close to home — was a 47-year-old cyclist who was struck and killed by a driver in Markham.

Tory met with city staff on Wednesday to see what can be done to keep pedestrians and cyclists safe. But the mayor says this isn't just up to the city.

"We're going to reconfigure roads, we are changing speed limits, we are putting up signs to tell people how fast they're going, we are enforcing the laws, we are bringing in photo radar," he told reporters.

"But people have to change, who are in cars and trucks, their own behaviour."

With files from John Rieti